Some Days You’re The Oil, Some Days You’re The Filter
In the auto repair business hardly a day goes by that something doesn’t try to upset the apple cart.
It might be the new lube guy who spilled 30 gallons of oil on the floor, or that lost set of customer
keys. No matter what it is, something or someone is bound and determined to make your day different
than the next.
From time to time it helps to go with the flow. You know, just let things slip on by and not take
things so seriously, because no matter what, there’s always another hectic situation just around the
corner to test your stress level. Think of it this way, you could be the oil or you could be the filter.
You either let things slide through the day, or you’re trapped with the rest of the grit and grime.
Speaking of oil, take the day of the oil SNAFU.
I have several customers who have their own preferences as to which brand of oil they would like to have in their car. Now, of course, I strictly adhere to the appropriate type and weight, but as far as brands of oils, I’m up for any name on the bottle. (Although I do have a few brands I consider taboo.) Funny thing is, I never seem to get through to some of these folks about the importance of a quality oil filter. I believe this should be a higher concern than the brand of oil.
This particular day was a rather chaotic one, with more than a few issues on the rise. Being the well-seasoned shop owner, I was more than up for the task of getting each and every job in and out the door with the skill of a professional. In comes two of my old time regulars with their precious chosen brand of oil they have hand picked off the shelf. Oh yes, I mean hand-picked. These guys remind of the careful shopper at the grocery store who goes through the produce isle finding that perfect melon or apple. I can picture these two guys at the parts store picking up each bottle and examining it in detail before selecting that very bottle for their car. A bit eccentric, yes, but at their age it’s something technology hasn’t taken away from them. It still allows them to feel they can contribute to their car’s well-being, even though they can’t physically work on their own cars anymore. Needless to say these cherished oil cans are treated like gold when they enter the realm of the service bay… or at least that’s the normal way we handled it. Today, well, it was a bit different. We have our new lube tech, Clifford, in charge of the oil service bay. He’s doing a great job, and even managed to up-sell a few seriously overlooked problems on a few customer cars. I have high hopes for this youngster, and encourage him to study for his ASE tests and further his education in the automotive field. This afternoon we already had 4 oil changes lined up for him. Two were the normal, ‘getrdone’ oil changes and two were our regular old timers with their hand selected oil. Clifford has these oil change scenarios down pat. Everything from looking up the actual amount and type of oil required, to verifying what oil they brought, if there is an adequate amount, as well as saving the empties to show the customer when all was said and done. As the cars were shuffled in and out of the service bay, somehow between the front office, the service bay, and back to the front lobby, the wrong box of oil was sent with the wrong car, or at least it was assumed. (No one knows for sure) Luckily, the oil weight, amount, and type were exactly the same from car to car. The only thing that was different was the one thing the owners of these cars had the most pride and input about, and that was the ‘brand’ of oil. Mind you, for some of these regulars who bring their hand-picked-hand-selected oil, they’re quite serious about it. You just don’t calm the situation down by telling them you’ll replace the oil with the brand they originally wanted. Oh heavens no! That’s sacrilegious! That would mean a complete engine tear down (while they watched over you like a hawk) with the interior of the motor completely hand wiped to remove any traces of this foreign oil. I wouldn’t doubt it if they would have gone as far as having the molecular structure of the oil checked and verified that none of the competitor’s brand of oil was left to contaminate their engine.
By now, Clifford has been dragged from the service bay and was about to receive a third degree interrogation while trying to explain his side of this debacle to the older gentlemen.
I took it upon myself to advert the possible cardiac arrest in the front lobby and save Clifford from a fate worse than a stuck on oil filter. As usual, there is one thing that separates the counter guy, the lube rack guy, and the owner… the person who makes the final decision on how to dissolve a situation, that’s me, the owner.
At the front counter the two old gentlemen were busy sorting through the bottles in each box while holding each of them up to the light for a closer inspection. The conversation went from who did what, to who didn’t do what, and why their brand was better than the other guys brand. Each of them now were trying to play “oil detective” and were trying to locate the slippery individual who screwed this all up. As things go with these two grandpas, they can't stay on one subject for very long, soon they were talking about vacations and grand-kids. In fact the two old guys were starting to doubt which oil was theirs in first place.
I stepped in between my two elderly customers and their precious boxes of empty oil bottles. Without saying a word I ever so graciously reached for the oil bottles that each of them were holding and placed them back into their respective boxes. Then, with the moves of a Las Vegas magician, I switched box A with customer B and box B with customer A. Then cheerfully said, “There ya go, just a little mix up. It’s all good, you’re all set.” and walked away without another word. I just looked at my counter guy and gave him a wink. He knew what to do, as I guided the bewildered lube tech back to the service bay.
I don’t think I’ll ever find out who mixed up what oil with what car, or if there ever was a mix up at all, but you can be sure Cliff won’t forget about this. One minute he’s changing oil, the next he’s got two old guys shaking empty oil bottles at him. Sure made for an interesting day. Ya just never know what’s going to happen when you unscrew that drain plug… some days you’re the oil, some days you’re the filter.